House onion probe resource persons oddly all sick; chamber’s doc told to see them
MANILA, Philippines — Members of the House of Representatives committee on agriculture and food have asked the chamber’s official physician to check the resource persons who failed to attend the ongoing onion inquiry, seemingly, all of them got sick at the same time.
During the committee’s hearing on the alleged smuggling of agricultural products, particularly onion on Tuesday, Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. moved that the House’s physician, Dr. Jose Luis Bautista, personally check the condition of trader Lilia “Leah” Cruz, who begged off from the hearing due to medical reasons.
“I most respectfully move that a physician from Congress, Dr. Bautista, be required or requested to visit today personally and see the condition of Lea Cruz as to whether or not her condition really prevents her from attending the session insofar as the current investigation is being concerned,” Barzaga said.
Barzaga’s motion came after Bautista assessed the medical certificate of Cruz, who, according to her lawyer, has been hospitalized since Sunday. While Bautista agreed that Cruz was indeed hospitalized, the doctor said that there is no condition barring the resource person from attending through videoconferencing.
“With this certificate, your client Ms. Lilia Cruz, a 47-year-old female, has the conditions stated therein. I need not go to it one by one but with these conditions, and she’s actually admitted for her condition of bleeding — let’s just say, bleeding,” Bautista said.
“But this does not preclude her from attending this session [via] Zoom. That’s what I have to say here,” he added.
Cruz, accused by several personalities as an agricultural smuggler, was one of the guests summoned by the panel. Cruz asked to be excused due to different ailments, prompting Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo and committee chair Quezon 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga to note that it seems the resource persons all got sick at the same time.
Enverga said that as committee chair, he would allow the resource persons to explain their side.
“Kasi syempre mahalaga na marinig natin ang mga sasabihin ng mga biggest players sa industriyang ito, ‘yan ang nakakapag-taka bakit sabay-sabay silang nagkasakit sa araw na ito, so kasama po d’yan ang mga representante ng Super Five Cold Storage, ang Tian Long Cold Storage na pinakamalaki sa Bulacan, at pati na rin si Ms. Lilia Cruz na paulit-ulit natin iniimbitahan,” Quimbo said.
(Because, of course, it is important to hear what the big players in the storage industry have to say, but, surprisingly, they got sick all at the same time, so the subpoena includes representatives from the Super Five Cold Storage, the Tian Long Cold Storage which is biggest in Bulacan, and even Ms. Lilia Cruz whom we have invited several times.)
“Ang daming may sakit [A lot of them are sick], I don’t want to prejudge being the chair, being the chair I don’t want to prejudge, we will afford them the chance to explain the pandemic happening at this stage,” Enverga added.
Aside from Cruz, Enverga mentioned the following resource persons who were not able to attend:
- Mary Ann Lim, pregnant, was advised to do bed rest (with a medical certificate)
- Grace Ong, COVID-19 symptoms (with medical certificate)
- Marlene Lamata (with medical certificate)
- Vilma Camato (with medical certificate)
- Eric Pabelona (no medical certificate)
The House panel is investigating the rising prices of agricultural products, mainly onions, which skyrocketed to around P600 to P700 per kilogram.
The hearings have led to contempt orders being imposed against resource persons as one of the trading companies invited by the panel — Argo Trading — refused to provide documents needed by the panel claiming they were confidential. However, lawmakers eventually discovered that a confidentiality clause did not cover the documents.